SMM: Chapter 1—Who Should Read This Book

A Guest Post by Kate

Originally posted Time To Live, Friend

You probably shouldn’t read this book if you have problems with high blood pressure and/or are prone to throwing books across the room. The Botkins advice to readers is a little different: 

“Don’t read this book at all…if you have a bad attitude toward your father and if you are trying to keep your distance from him. Many girls enjoy having ‘space’ away from their fathers. That space is dangerous. This book is about protection” (6). And: “If you’re not willing to give your heart to your father, this book will put you at odds with the scriptural mandate you will find here” (6).

Don’t say you haven’t been warned!

Interestingly, I didn’t realize that this book was written when Anna Sofia and Elizabeth were 17 and 15 years old. Since they are so young they freely admit, “We write this book as a candid examination of our times and the issues facing us….” And “We’re not authorities. We’re teenagers” (3).

And yet, let’s face it, Vision Forum certainly isn’t MARKETING it as a “candid” examination! “Within the pages of this book, discover practical, biblical solutions for the young woman who wants to do so much more than just “survive” in a savagely feministic, anti-Christian culture. Find the answers a girl is not likely to get from her church, her peers, or her culture.“ I don’t know about you, but I think they may have left out a small detail about the advice being given by two teenagers.

The Botkin sisters spend the first chapter giving a general introduction to the problems they see with current society and an overview of what they hope to accomplish in this book. In other words, despite the fact that they’re so young, they’re offering advice about what girls older than them should be doing with their lives.

In their youth, the Botkin sister’s parents ministered to college students, and it was in these settings that the Botkin sisters made their first “real friends” outside of their “family circle.” (They didn’t have any friends their own age? Why is this not surprising?) From these college girls, the Botkin sisters observed that many of them came from broken homes and didn’t know what “true love” was.

 “What they all seemed to want more than anything else was truth, safety, purpose, and faithful male companionship and protection” (4).

Then the Botkin sisters put on their rose-colored glasses: society was so much better for women in the past, and we need to go back to the patriarchal system of how it was done. Because today  girls are spiritually and emotionally abandoned to day cares, and have to learn to fend for themselves, and the evils of feminism, crime rates, promiscuity, abortion, and homosexuality. Because girls don’t submit or have good relationships with their fathers…. Death! Crime! Bad scary things!

The Botkin sisters present around 12 stories to set up their argument that leaving home and pursuing a higher education undoubtedly results in depression, dissatisfaction with life, and/or a sinful lifestyle. They conclude that the problems in these girls’ lives are because they didn’t follow God’s design (staying at home under a father’s protection).

Here are two of the stories:

“Amy was 23 years old and ready to start a life on her own, when suddenly her mother was diagnosed with cancer and died seven months later. Before she died, Amy’s mother asked Amy to take care of her nine younger brothers and sisters, the youngest just a year old. Amy’s struggles in coping with this devastating turn of events, and adjusting to her new role of surrogate mother and lady of the house, have required strength and grace she never could have found in feminist solutions. She also found that she needed her father even more than he needed her” (10).

(I’ll get into the creepy father-daughter vibe later on in this series).

“Fiona was intelligent and had a fiercely independent spirit—the key ingredients to being successful women by our generation’s standards. At age eighteen she left home to pursue higher education and launched herself into a life of independence. She describes it as a life of grief and depression. After five years of unhappiness, becoming increasingly distressed that she didn’t know how God wanted her to use her life, Fiona repented” (11).

While I plan to dissect these beliefs throughout the whole series, I just want to mention that what the girls in the stories fail to take into consideration is the fact that it’s perfectly normal to experience these feelings when you’re first out on your own and trying to simply figure out life.  I think most people would describe their 20s as a time of great uncertainty, change, and soul-searching, but also a rewarding time of adventure, new experiences, and self-discovery. Because the Botkin sisters can’t allow for this option (you mean it’s normal to have ups and downs in life and that’s not just because you’re not “under your father’s protection?”) they can only conclude that the girls have started adapting the “ways of the world.”

Or perhaps, in Fiona’s case, it wasn’t because she was independent and pursuing a higher education—maybe she lacked friends and a healthy social life. Maybe she didn’t love what she was learning. Maybe rather than being a sign that she needed to “repent” it was a sign that she needed to change her degree or see a counselor.

The Botkin sisters don’t notice any of these options, however. For them, it all comes down to submission and giving your heart to your father—or else bad scary things will happen to you.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • stacey

    The Botkins are mega creepy. They have no idea what it was like to be a woman in the past.
    But they ARE like teens everywhere- they think they know it ALL!

  • badgerchild

    After several sessions, my wise, knowledgeable therapist described my father as the kind of man who did not deserve the devotion and obedience I was giving him. I think she put it technically as “Your dad, you know, he was a complete jerk.” When I went to college, it was also a time of grief and depression. My parents did astonishing things to show their disapproval of me leaving the family, all while pretending to be supportive. I realize now that they carefully set me up for failure. I was persuaded to enter the cheap nearby state school when I refused to do “the community college thing”, despite having won talent scholarships to excellent schools in my field. Once there, my parents promptly divorced, sold my possessions (including my grand piano, despite the fact that I was a piano major), and pretended to be in financial difficulty when I asked for the food and rent money that they had promised me. Naturally I did badly in my studies because of worry and had to come home early, where my mother took away my car privileges and told me that it was inappropriate for a young lady to stay out until 10 with friends. My father made out that I was a failure to have to leave school and he was not going to “finance” such an enterprise again. I had to marry to escape that. It turned out to be a bad, abusive marriage. I might as well have moved to another planet so far as the support and interest of my family was concerned. 20 years later, my brother’s only comment was “I know Dad was pretty hard on you”.

    I mention all this because I fear for intelligent, independent teenagers such as Fiona and the Botkins when they do actually try to make it on their own and expect the natural help of their families. Controlling and authoritarian parenting doesn’t stop at the front door.

    • Katherine Hompes

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. I hope you are in a better place now.

      • badgerchild

        Oh, definitely. 20 years, a great therapist, and deconversion make a lot of difference. :)

  • Kit

    I don’t suppose that it would occur to them that they have a serious selection bias in their entirely anecdotal study? After all, if they met people through their parents’ ministry, it is likely that the people who sought out her parents were unhappy/depressed/etc anyway.

    If, like me, you started university at 17 and lived in residence and made tons of new friends and learned lots of things you found really interesting and basically had a ton of fun … you wouldn’t exactly be seeking out a ministry to confide in.

    • Arakasi_99

      This is what happens when you assume your conclusion.

      In the Botkin’s world, there are women at college who have acknowledged that they are miserable making decisions for themselves, and there are those in denial. In their worldview, you are secretly miserable, you just refuse to acknowedge it.

      • KarenJo12

        Do they have any idea of how much this sounds like a Marxist describing the “false consciousness” of the proletariat?

      • Arakasi_99

        I doubt it. There seems to be a large chunk of the population that uses “Marxist” as a synonym for “bad”, with no real definition of its own. This is how Free Republic or Townhall can call Obama a Marxist in all apparent sincerity.
        This also seems to apply to words such as “socialist”, “atheist”, “secularlist”, “Muslim”, et al. They don’t have any real meaning of their own, they are just intensifiers of the concept of “bad”. It’s kind of how the word “bonnie” has become an general positive intensifier, meaning “good/pretty” in Scots English

      • Feminerd

        I have actually had the words “Marxist Jewish cabal of bankers” drilled into my ears once. I started laughing- I just couldn’t help it. I then pointed out every one of the numerous self-contradictions in that statement.

        The person I was talking to was less amused, but at least admitted that it was a pretty stupid thing to say.

      • Arakasi_99

        “Marxist Jewish cabal of bankers”
        That’s just code for “double-plus ungood”

      • The_L1985

        I’ll have to tell my Jewish fiance that one!

    • JarredH

      That’s what jumped out at me too.

      • Lucreza Borgia


    • Composer 99

      Another issue I can see is that they either are unaware of the apparent prevalence of mental illness in the US (approximately one-quarter of Americans aged 18 and up in any given year) – or it’s another “not an option” matter, which cannot be allowed to interfere with their narrative.

      • Alice

        I didn’t know it was that high, especially since many people don’t seek treatment for various reasons.

      • The_L1985

        I blame that on the way mental illness is treated in our society. I’ve been thinking of going to an open-mike night JUST to do a routine on “If People Treated Physical Illness The Way We Treat Mental Illness.”

        “But you had lupus LAST year. You even told me you were taking medication for it. Isn’t it gone now?”

        “Diabetes? Pshaw, it’s all in your mind! Those insulin shots are just a placebo.”

        “Broken leg? Walk it off, you pansy!”

        “Have you ever tried, like, not being paraplegic?”

  • Katherine Hompes

    How awful was Amy’s mother? What a horrible thing to do to your own child!

    • NeaDods

      This assumes that Amy exists outside the need to saddle a feminist with a daddy and a passel of children without being completely creepy about it.

  • Machintelligence

    If it isn’t too much of a spoiler, how old are they now, and have they changed their opinions? (I am willing to wait to the end to find out.)

    • Libby Anne

      The are 25 and 27, and no, they haven’t changed their opinions. At least, they’re still doing the stay-at-home daughter thing and they’re still all about what amounts to giving up your agency and becoming a daddy-bot. The weird thing is they still haven’t married. This actually isn’t that uncommon in stay-at-home daughter circles, or at least among those in those circles who are well off. I think the problem is they’ve been unable to find men who top their daddy, and they know as soon as they get married their status will change completely. They’re still writing books, and they’re doing one right now that deals with staying emotionally pure and handling relationships.

      • Niemand

        I think the problem is they’ve been unable to find men who top their daddy,

        (Totally filthy thought went through my mind when I read that. There’s something about reading about fundie relationship advice that takes my mind right to the gutter and leaves it there.)

      • The_L1985

        You’re not the only one. I’m not sure which filthy thought that leaped to mind was worse: the gay one, or the incestuous one.

      • Niemand

        In my mind the incestuous one. The gay one isn’t in itself problematic, but in combination with incest…eep.

        I think it’s the fact that the underlying assumption of the Quiverful movement and similar is that people are filthy and evil that makes every little remark about them take on secondary meaning.

      • phantomreader42

        It raises the biblical precedent of Lot’s daughters.

      • wmdkitty


        I had the same thought…

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        I think they’re older than that–at least their ages are given as 21 and 23 as of 2006.

        I’m really confused as to why they’re not married, considering the insane premium their subculture places on youth. They’re still young of course but, at 30, it seems that even non-fundamentalist busybodies are going to start trolling you pretty soon about why you don’t have a man.

      • Niemand

        Moments when I’m (particularly) grateful to my family: When I was younger (20s) and unattached, my mother made it clear to the rest of my relatives that anyone asking why I didn’t have a guy would be answering to her. That was pretty much that, no one bothered me about it. Later, I got a guy but not a marriage. My grandmother came and met him. He was nice to her and nice to me and she declared the relationship good. That pretty much put an end to the “why don’t you get married before he leaves you” nonsense.

        Family can drive you nuts, but it can be good too.

      • Ahab

        Maybe their unmarried state is because daddy loves the adoration and wants to keep them around?

      • KarenJo12

        Pretty much. Dad would also lose their income.

      • Libby Anne

        I suspect it goes both ways, actually. They get a lot of adoration on the speaking trail, and that would change if they had a passle of children. It happened to Kelly (Brown) Bradrick:

      • AnotherOne

        I agree with your point, but I actually thought the post you linked was invasive and not cool at all. There’s a lot of speculation and facebook stalking going on in it, and it’s unfair to take a picture of someone’s wedding, compare it to two random pictures taken in later years, and use the contrast to imply that she’s unhappy. Even if the person who wrote the post is right, and the men in Kelly Bradrick’s life are jerks and she’s desperately unhappy, a post like this is likely to just make her retreat into her shell farther, and to make her redouble her efforts to create a happy public façade.

      • Libby Anne

        I’m not saying you’re wrong, but just to point out, the blogger who wrote that post grew up in the movement and isn’t the snarky type at all. I think the intent was to raise concern about how these Quiverfull princesses are treated after marriage and children rather than to make fun of her.

      • AnotherOne

        I didn’t really think the blogger was making fun of her, and it didn’t come off as really mean/snarky. It was more that it seems invasive and highly speculative (how do we know what the story was on her postpartum vacation? Maybe she was hell-bent on not missing a trip to Europe. We simply can’t know). Anyway, it seems like everyone in the equation, including the Rethinking VF blogger, is more interested in using their perceptions about her life to make a point than they are in treating her like an individual. To her father and Doug Phillips (and maybe her husband?) she’s sermon fodder–a submissive homeschooled daughter/wife and fertile quiverfull mother poster child. And in the Rethinking VF post she’s the example of how bad quiverfull motherhood is.

      • Libby Anne

        I guess in my reading of the post, it reads as empathetic.

      • AnotherOne

        Yes, it did sound like the post was written from a place of concern and good intentions.

      • Sally

        I had the same impression and thoughts. I didn’t think it was intended to be mean but rather to expose something, but it was so speculative and used pictures I could look just as bad in (I’ve plenty of those!). I feel like the woman’s life was picked apart without any direct knowledge of her side of it. I’m not trying to defend the quiverfull lifestyle, but I question this one person’s life being analyzed this way.
        Is she someone who was out preaching this lifestyle before marriage and therefore someone who might have opened herself up to this future scrutiny?

      • Libby Anne

        Yes, she was. She was the quiverfull princess before the Botkins, and her wedding was HUGE and touted as a perfect quiverfull courtship success. And again, the author of the article grew up like Kelly, and knows some of the same people, etc. It’s not like she’s some random person on the Internet who doesn’t know what she’s talking about or just thinks the lifestyle is weird or something.

      • Sally

        OK, if *Kelly* put herself out there as a model and preached this to others, then I think its fair game to try to get some insight into how it’s turning out. That said, the article would be more meaningful if it weren’t based on mostly speculation. Well, anyway, I understand why the author wrote about her.

      • AnotherOne

        But has Kelly *herself* advocated her lifestyle in a public way during her adulthood, or was it just other people touting her upbringing and wedding? (It’s a sincere question; I did a quick google and didn’t find anything where she spoke or wrote publicly, as a child, adolescent, or adult).

        I know I’m beating a dead horse, especially since I don’t think that the article was mean-spirited, but I think making narratives about peoples’ lives without knowing their story or hearing their perspective or giving them credit for agency is a real weakness in the fundamentalist homeschooling circles that so many of us grew up in. I think it’s important that we don’t engage in the same kind of behavior.

        (And I admit, a lot of what I’m saying comes from my own experience. I’m sick to death of all the narratives people in my family and community have made up in their heads about why I left, and how they use things like a facebook photo of me drinking a glass of wine as evidence of the deep depravity and unhappiness that my rebellion against God has led to).

      • Libby Anne

        Kelly featured in the film The Return of the Daughters. She was one of four young women featured, and the film is highly touted by Vision Forum. Here’s a review:

      • Libby Anne
      • Sally

        You know what else, it’s really birth control. If you don’t want to have 20 children, you better not get married at 18. The longer they busy themselves with their projects and supporting Dad, the fewer children they’ll have to have if they ever do get married.

      • Libby Anne

        Which is a bad thing. More babies = more respect and greater holiness. Few children = what is wrong with you?!

      • David Kopp

        I agree with the ideals being bad. But I’m a fan of these two not directly bringing more daddy-bots into the world.

      • Sally

        But maybe if you’re serving your daddy like “Amy” or the Botkin girls themselves, you get a pass? Sort of an evangelical way of becoming a nun, at least for a time. -Just a theory.

  • AztecQueen2000

    Why does it seems that most cults (and I include fundamentalists of all stripes in this) have the most success with people in their teens and 20s? We’re still trying to figure out who we are, and along comes some over-confident, charismatic figure (whether in person or print) who seems to have all the answers. That’s how I got sucked into my situation. Now that I have kids, it’s going to be harder to get out.

    • Katty

      Hi AztecQueen! I’ve been thinking about you lately and wondering how you were doing. I remember well when you mentioned verbal abuse in the comments on one of the CTBHHM posts (I think). Now I see you mentioning “getting out” so I took this opportunity to have a look at your blog to see how things were going. (If you’ve mentioned it before on this blog I didn’t see it, sorry!)

      Sorry for the derail here, but I’m so happy to see someone having the strength to get out of an unhealthy situation! I wish you all the best and all the strength you need in the coming months, AztecQueen!

    • tsara

      “Now that I have kids, it’s going to be harder to get out.”

      Feel free to tell me to eff off if this is out of line, but do you need help finding resources or anything? I’m pretty good at research, and if you’ve got limited amounts of time or privacy, I’d be happy to do what I can to help.

  • LouisDoench

    Most importantly, Savage Feminists would be a great name for a Punk band.

    • Kevin Alexander

      Savage feminist is an oxymoron. Feminists are progressives which is the opposite of savage. It’s the religious who cling to the tribal pre-civilized values.

      • phantomreader42

        This is why it would make a good band name. Like Quiet Riot or Savage Garden. A riot is loud pretty much by defintion, and a garden is usually a peaceful place.

      • Hat Stealer

        Hey, you haven’t seen my garden. It’s pretty savage.

      • Feminerd

        For those who read the Dresden Files books (and if you don’t, you should! Modern fantasy ftw), the Leanansidhe’s garden in the Nevernever outside Harry’s home is pretty savage.

      • Sunny Day

        I especially like Harry’s realization that Lea built that garden to protect access to Harry’s home from the other side.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      I don’t know, I like “The Savagely Feministic.” Sounds kind of like “The Tragically Hip.”

  • el

    “Don’t read this book at all…if you have a bad attitude toward your
    father and if you are trying to keep your distance from him. Many girls
    enjoy having ‘space’ away from their fathers. That space is dangerous.
    This book is about protection” (6).

    I can’t get past this quote. I just read it and laugh. My father was a good person, but he was so severely depressed that having “space” away from him was my protection. I would have fallen into depression just as deeply if I had to stick around him all the time being his helpmate. I can’t help but think about all the girls who have abusive fathers, or those who have decent fathers, but just need to get away occasionally to become their own person. Oh wait, what am I saying? It’s bad for women to have personalities, apparently.

  • BobaFuct

    “Amy’s struggles in coping with this devastating turn of events, and adjusting to her new role of surrogate mother and lady of the house, have required strength and grace she never could have found in feminist solutions.”

    Oh…okay…well if you say so!

  • Ahab

    “Don’t read this book at all … if you have a bad attitude toward your father and if you are trying to keep your distance from him. Many girls enjoy having ‘space’ away from their fathers. That space is dangerous.”

    Holy crap. Enmeshment, anyone? This kind of clinginess is unhealthy.

    “…a savagely feministic, anti-Christian culture.”

    I wouldn’t define a society that treats women as autonomous human beings as savage. And, like plenty of other fundamentalists, the Botkin sisters have a monolithic, us-versus-them view of the society.

    I think the Botkins’ minds have been stifled by a rigid family life and subculture. One guess as to who convinced them that they can’t live without daddy?

  • Gillianren

    Gillian’s father died when she was six. But because she doesn’t meet our two-parent household worldview, we’ll just pretend she doesn’t exist.

    • phantomreader42

      Don’t feel personally slighted. Cultists like that pretend 99.99999999% of the planet doesn’t exist whenever they find it convenient (which is pretty often).
      The above is accurate to 10 significant figures, I checked. :)

    • gimpi1

      My dad suffered brain-damage in an industrial accident. While he recovered (mostly) physically, mentally he needed supervision and care all my life. I helped my mom with his supervision and care from an early age. When I was in my early 20s, my mom passed away and I became his caretaker. Apparently, since I “protected” my father instead of being “protected” by him, I don’t exist either. You’re in good company, Gillian.

  • smrnda

    I notice conservative Christianity has a problem with very young people offering life advice – I recall Joshua Harris writing about dating and courtship in his early 20s and starting the whole emotional purity thing. It’s wrong to dismiss the perspectives of younger people, but it’s also wrong to give them too much weight.

    The other thing is, just because you find some depressed young independent women doesn’t mean much of anything. Would finding some happy, satisfied young independent women going to cancel that out in a battle of the anecdotes? I somehow doubt it.

  • itsdanilove

    “The Botkin sisters present around 12 stories to set up their argument that leaving home and pursuing a higher education undoubtedly results in depression, dissatisfaction with life, and/or a sinful lifestyle.”

    Well, leaving home and getting an education certainly did those things for me–it made me DEPRESSED to read screeds like the Botkin sisters’ and DISSATISFIED that this kind of crap is still peddled to women as the answer to their problems. Whoops, guess that makes me totally SINFUL!

    • aletha

      But now that you’ve acknowledged your sin, you can be saved! Godly, submissive marriage; scores of babies; holy housework! All this and more can be yours! Aren’t you pleased?

      • itsdanilove

        Phew, am I ever. All those ungodly pieces of knowledge all up in my gray matter.

      • aletha

        Ah. I know the solution to that problem. Simply ask a righteous man to think for you. Why should you stress about *gasp* THINKING?


  • Sue Blue

    Yay! Let’s get in our happy little time machines and dial back to the mythical Good Ol’ Days o’ Patriarchy with our minds dead and our legs spread for the manly he-men that all males instinctively knew how to be back then…because everyone knows that what every man really wants is a whiny little dimbulb who needs his permission to decide between meatloaf and spaghetti for dinner. A woman who will think and act like a child when she’s forty-five. A woman whose conversation holds all the intellectual stimulation of talking to a cat-food can. A woman who can’t get a job to help out with the mortgage, but who can whip up a prize-winning Tater-Tot casserole in twenty minutes or less! Yeah!

  • lauraleemoss

    What subservient women fail to realize, or at least acknowledge, is that the past looks perfect because if half of the population is quiet and agreeable, the other half that speaks will report it as perfect. That is boggling when I hear people talk about the “good old days.” You mean the days when no one spoke about abuse?

  • Susie M

    I read this book at fifteen. And frankly, I was fine with the introduction. My dad and I got along great. I was his oldest child, bright, talented, and I got along better with him than my mom.

    Then I read the rest of the book. I cried. Literally cried. It was horrible being told that my, ostensibly responsible, dreams were pretty much pure rebellion.
    Go on mission trips? Bad! (Still cannot remember why on earth that was.)

    Go to college? Even more evil. Horrible girl. (I wanted to go to one of the most conservative colleges ever.)

    Date? Psh, let daddy pick your husband. (I actually figured my dad would insist on having a strong opinion on this because he adored me and he had strong opinions about everything. But I knew that those were just opinions and I was dating/picking.)

    So I did what any 15 year old whose future was about to be ruined would do. I hid the book under my bed (after my sister projectile vomited all over it).

    Six months later, my father died abruptly and I had to become just as independent and fierce as my brothers. 6.5 years later, all my siblings–male or female–are the same way. We work extremely hard, pay our own way through life, help out our mom when we can, and are fiercely independent. But the best part is, nothing in that book could have told us no. We couldn’t *not* work because we would’ve starved.

    I’m happy I read “So Much More” when I did. Happy I saw that information, then had a life experience that taught me just have impossible and ridiculous that information is. I don’t actually know any families who follow that script. I know some who claim to, but most people don’t want their daughters dottering around the house ’til the end of time. It’s eerie and they get underfoot.